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January 31, 2022

Mystery Pennsylvania canine breaks free from cage, escapes from rescue shelter

The animal went berserk and got loose from a rescue facility in Youngwood, Westmoreland County. Shelter staff is still awaiting the results of its DNA test

Wildlife Canines
Mystery Canine Pennsylvania Escape Wildlife Works Inc./Facebook

The mystery canine that was found in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, earlier in January has escaped from the animal rescue shelter where it was receiving veterinary care.

The enigmatic canine that was being housed by an animal rescue organization in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, has escaped from his cage and made a clean break from the shelter.

The unidentified animal became the subject of intense speculation and curiosity after a woman found him near her home in Westmoreland County and took him to a shelter in Youngwood for veterinary care. The male canine's fur showed visible signs of mange, and it wasn't immediately clear whether he was a species of dog or a wild animal that possibly is a genetic combination of coyote and dog.

The last we had heard was that Wildlife Works, a non-profit that rehabilitates and releases distressed animals, had sent out blood samples from the canine to be analyzed for a definitive answer about its DNA. In the meantime, the animal was recuperating at the shelter.

On Thursday morning, a Wildlife Works staff member showed up to the shelter and found that the area of the hospital where the animal had been kept was ransacked. Trash was strewn everywhere. There were scratch marks along the walls. The canine's cage was open and empty. A window had its seal and screen torn apart. 

The mystery canine had escaped, according to FOX8 in Johnstown, which has photos of the damage. 

"Nobody in the world thought something like this could happen," Beth Shoaf, Wildlife Works' executive director, told PhillyVoice on Monday night. "He was half-dead."

In a Facebook post that has since been deleted, the organization wrote that it was devastated by the animal's escape:

He never acted aggressive or distressed, and there had been no evidence of escape attempts. We had him for about a week, during which time he ate nutritious food and received treatment for his mange and secondary infections. We can only guess he was starting to feel somewhat better and decided it was time to go.

Hopefully those of you who know Wildlife Works know this is NOT (our) standard of care, and will understand how devastated we are – not just for ourselves but for that poor creature out there in the cold again struggling to survive.

Shoaf explained that she decided to take down the Facebook post with the photos after it became "deluged" with comments — most of them positive, but some hostile toward the organization. One person threatened to come out to the shelter and try to hunt the mystery canine, a comment Shoaf called tame compared to others that were posted.

"Our Facebook page became a forum for the haters," Shoaf said. "I was not willing to allow our page, which is dedicated to caring about rehabilitating and releasing animals, to be a forum for all these horrendous haters out there."

Shoaf said Wildlife Works will leave the barn doors open and try to lure the animal back, but there has been no sign of him since he broke free. If there are sightings in the area, they'll continue to set traps in hopes of recovering him. 

The staff at Wildlife Works is still awestruck by the escape the mystery canine made.

"The crate was just demolished. The hospital room was demolished. He had clambered up on a set of shelves and then reached over — this was no easy feat, let me tell you — he managed to stretch over to a window," Shoaf said. "These windows are high at the top of the walls. They're not windows you look out of, you know? And he chewed the window seals to force the window open — and out he went!"

In a new Facebook post on Monday, the organization thanked people who have reached out and offered their support, including donations that will help the organization make important investments. 

Many thanks to all the folks who reached out to us with messages of love and support. It far outweighed the nastiness...

Posted by Wildlife Works Inc. on Monday, January 31, 2022

The results of DNA tests are expected to take two to four weeks, so we will still get an answer out of this even if the canine has chosen to take his fate in his own paws. Anyone who had their money on him being a wild animal probably feels pretty vindicated by this new development.

"That's what we tend to think, but lots of folks shared stories of their huskies and rotties and goldens trashing those metal dog crates," Shoaf said. "It was the climbing the wall, though, and forcing itself out the window — that was the crazy part. We will post the DNA results once they're in."

Shoaf added that Wildlife Works has received tons of guesses and tips about the canine. 

"We got guesses that it was everything from an abused greyhound to Chupacabra. Seriously. There were lots of people that thought it might be Chupacabra," Shoaf said, referring to the mythical vampire creature who drinks the blood of livestock. "The only place I ever saw Chupacabra was on 'Scooby Doo' and it didn't look like a dog."

Several PhillyVoice readers also wrote in to say they believe the canine is a Mexican hairless dog or a coydog.  

"I did not realize how many species of hairless dogs there are," Shoaf said. "There's something called a Xolo (another name for a Mexican hairless) and there's a dhole. It was very enlightening." 

Sadly, for the animal's longterm welfare, his escape was not likely in his own best interest. 

In an alternate future, he would have been fully domesticated, and we would have seen him in one of those viral montage videos showing his return to health and his newly affectionate disposition, including a few clips of him playing with an animal of a different species and getting belly rubs, all backed by a gently strummed ukulele. Instead, he chose the life of the outlaw. 

Shoaf is committed to drawing the positive out of this situation, despite the unexpected twist. 

"We are going to take this very unfortunate incident and learn from it," Shoaf said. "We'll upgrade facilities. We're going to be better prepared the next time."

Ultimately, you can take the mystery canine out of the wild, but you can't take the wild out of the mystery canine, or something along those lines.